the roluos group, or harihalaya, is probably my favorite set of temples during the trip. :D
exploring ta prohm and riding chiben took a lot out of us this morning, so we headed back to the villa to have breakfast. while scarfing down our meals, we decided that we weren't up to going to banteay srei, which was an hour and a half away by tuk-tuk. our tired little bodies are now officially templed out.
still, we wanted to make the most out of the day, so we consulted with thia about our options. that's also one of the great things about taking the villa tours; you have enough flexibility to change your tours around, even at the last minute.
anyway, thia told us that we've basically covered most of the major temples, and the only ones left that are nearby are the roluos group. he also offered to take us to the nearby killing field memorial, and we thought those are pretty good alternatives to the supposed 1.5-hour drive to banteay srei.
we rested after breakfast, then met up with thia again at 10am. it took quite a while for us to reach preah ko, which was standing in front of the mini angkor wat sculptures. i told myself that i wouldn't visit the miniature temples, but the visit wasn't all that bad. i even got to buy a sculpture by dy proeung, the artist that created the replicas.
we then entered the preah ko grounds, and i was glad to find that instead of gray stones, this one was made of bricks. i've always loved brick structures, though i still haven't understood why. i guess the orange gradient gives the buildings more personality.
the hariharalaya group was created by king indravarman I. the term hariharalaya refers to an ancient city, where the three temples i saw (preah ko, bakong, and lolei) are found. today, though, this group is better known as the roluos group.
preah ko was specifically created by the king to honor his family. these kings are pretty thoughtful kids, having their people toil all day to make sure their family feels honored and respected. this temple has six towers, all facing east. three of the towers are in front, and three at the back. the center temple in front is dedicated to jayavarman II, the one on its right is for the king's father, the one on the left is for his grandfather. the three temples at the back represent the wives of the three men. all temples feature fancy sanskrit carving by the door, and the original doorway and intricate carvings above it are still intact.
next up was bakong, the first temple mountain of the khmer empire. while the main temple itself is made of huge, dark stone, it was surrounded by eight brick structures that resemble a tiny version of the preah ko temples. thia asked us to climb to the top while he stayed behind. i can understand why. the steps were hard to climb, as they were higher than the usual steps that we're so used to. and being a temple mountain, it took a while for me to climb it (with me being unhealthy and all). the view at the top was worth it, though: you can see the entire complex, complete with the tiny elephants carved at the side, and the eight brick structures. we hung out there for a while, resting our legs, not really looking forward to going back down.
finally, we sped off to lolei, the northernmost temple in the roluos group. before climbing up to see the temple, we decided to take a little break and join in the festivities, as there was some sort of fiesta going on in the town. they had that dart game where you try and pierce balloons to get a prize. i tried my luck at it, but didn't succeed in puncturing seven balloons straight. thia got to win a few packets of junk food, which he gladly shared with us.
after that, it was back to business (i.e. serious temple stuff). lolei closely resembled preah ko--it had the same carvings, the figures carved on the facade were also similar. even the carvings above the doorways were the same, but instead of six temples, there were only four. thia said that this used to be an island temple, but the water has now subsided, and lolei is easily accessible by land.
templing done, we drove back to the center, where the killing field memorial is found. it resembled a cemetery, with tombs lined up by the gate. in the middle was the small, temple-like structure covered with glass that contained the skulls. off to the side, there was a board where photos of the people who were killed are displayed.
our time there was solemn, and i took no pictures to show my respect. thia told us of the massacre, how old people, bald people, people with glasses--any person that the khmer rouge deemed to be against them--were killed mercilessly. while pol pot has already passed, a lot of those who ruled with him are actually still in power in cambodia today.
it was a jolting realization; i had almost forgotten that even with all the heritage treasures it possesses, cambodia was once fraught with violence. it was a humbling and fitting ending to our adventure.